NORMAN, Okla. (AP) – Oklahoma has been waiting for the Amath M’Baye who averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds a game as a sophomore at Wyoming to make his presence felt this season.
If the last two games are any indication, the junior transfer may have arrived just in time for the new year.
Coming off of a 16-point, six-rebound performance that earned him Big 12 newcomer of the week honors, M’Baye scored 14 points and pulled down six boards to help lead the Sooners to a 72-42 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Monday in the first game played at OU’s McCasland Field House since 1975.
M’Baye was 7 of 11 from the field to complement a game-high 17-point effort from Steven Pledger, who connected on 5 of 10 shots from beyond the arc. While M’Baye paced OU with eight first-half points, Pledger led the way with 11 points after the break, for the Sooners (9-3).
“These two (Pledger and M’Baye) stepped up and made shots, and it’s good to see that,” said OU coach Lon Kruger. “It gives you a good foundation and a good cornerstone to work from, and I think the other guys gain confidence when guys are stepping up and making shots like today.”
Pledger entered the contest shooting only 36 percent on 3-point attempts, but found his stroke with a pair of long-range treys that staked OU to an 18-6 lead just over six minutes into the contest. The Sooners controlled the tempo from the opening tip and never allowed the outmanned Islanders to find an offensive rhythm. A putback by M’Baye gave OU a 38-20 lead and the Sooners settled for a 40-21 halftime advantage.
“I’m glad we were able to jump on top like that and keep the pedal to the metal and get playing time for the white team who works so hard every week for us,” said M’Baye, in reference to Kruger being able to play everyone on his bench during the contest.
The Islanders (1-10) shot only 29 percent from the field en route to their 10th straight loss. Joy Williamson was their only player in double figures, with 14 points.
M’Baye played his first two seasons at Wyoming before transferring to Oklahoma prior to the 2011-12 campaign. The 6-foot-9 forward sat out last season per NCAA rules and earned his way into the OU lineup, starting each of his team’s 12 games this season and averaging 8.8 points and 6.0 rebounds.
Oklahoma shot just 41 percent from the field (24-of-59) despite M’Baye’s solid shooting numbers. Meanwhile, the Islanders connected on only 17-of-58 shots from the field (29 percent) and were outrebounded 44-35 by the Sooners. Corpus Christi hasn’t won since its opener against Texas Lutheran on Nov. 11.
“I like the potential of this group, but we can’t be content with where we’re at by any means,” said Kruger, whose team opens Big 12 action on Saturday at West Virginia. “We’ve got to understand that Big 12 play is going to be tough every night out. We’ve got to get better every day in practice and not just game to game.”
Oklahoma, which normally plays its home games in Lloyd Noble Center, got nine points from Andrew Fitzgerald and seven each from Cameron Clark and Buddy Hield. The contest was part of the “Field House Series” and was OU’s first win in the 84-year-old building since beating Iowa State 84-79 on March 5, 1975.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)